Lady Warriors dismiss Unaka

By Ivan Sanders

   It was almost like a scene from an Old West movie where the Calvary rounds up the wagons and tries to hold off an onslaught by a band of Indians, only to end up biting the dust at the end.
   The Unaka Lady Rangers surrounded themselves with good defense early, only to see the Lady Warriors of Happy Valley use a big fourth inning to take a 6-1 victory at Ronnie Hicks Field.
   "Our girls have really made a big turn around over the last week or so and have really cut down on their errors," said Lady Warrior coach Karri Killen. "We're coming off a big loss to Unicoi County yesterday, but the girls kept their spirits up and played a great game today."
   Happy Valley wasted little time in erasing the goose egg off their side of the board. Leanna Howell took a pitch out of the confines of Hicks Field for a 1-0 lead. Terra Whaley added a single, but nothing came of it.
   Danielle Carr laced a single in the bottom of the frame for the Lady Rangers, but the defense of Happy Valley rose to the occasion to shut Unaka out in the inning.
   Unaka used a little defense of its own in the top of the second. Kate Powell reached on a single, but was nailed by Unaka catcher Emily Elliott trying to advance.
   "Emily does a good job for us behind the plate," stated long time Unaka mentor Ronnie Hicks. "She is usually good for at least one runner put out per game, but today she had three."
   After the play, the Warriors were erased with little problem, ending the frame for Happy Valley.
   Unaka tried to put a little rally together in the bottom of the inning. Aleshia Buckles drew a walk from Lady Warrior pitcher Kortney Goulds and was advanced to second on a nice sacrifice bunt from Kellie Allen.
   The Rangers were unable to capitalize with the runner in scoring position and the Lady Warriors maintained a 1-0 lead at the end of two complete.
   Happy Valley brought out the war drums in the third. Jeannie Hawkins, Brandi Dugger and Howell all ripped singles to help the Lady Warriors add a solo run to their tally. Dugger was credited with the RBI after bringing in Hawkins.
   Unaka showed signs of breaking out in the inning after a double off the bat of Carr. Jessica Moffitt picked Carr up with a single and the Lady Rangers trailed by only one, 2-1.
   "We played a pretty decent game against the girls from Happy Valley," stated Hicks. "They just were able to get the hits and we didn't."
   Hicks was referring to the top of the fourth when the Lady Warriors put together a string of singles to enlarge the margin between the two teams.
   Goulds, Jessie Blevins, Powell and Hawkins all singled with each girl, except Goulds, picking up an RBI. The lead was now at four, 5-1, in favor of Happy Valley.
   Goulds showed up in a large way in the Rangers frame as the Warrior ace faced the minimum number of batters with all three outs being on strikeouts.
   Howell notched her third hit of the day in the Warrior fifth. Goulds helped her own cause with an RBI double that plated Howell for a commanding 6-1 advantage.
   Unaka managed to get only two more base runners thanks to walks the rest of the way as Goulds appeared to just get stronger as the game progressed.
   "These girls have a lot of confidence right now," stated Coach Killen of her Lady Warrior squad. "I do what I can, but they get the job done on the field."
   As for the Lady Rangers, Hicks felt the experience gained by playing teams like Happy Valley would benefit his young team when it counted the most -- at tournament time.
   "We are 5-10 overall right now, but 2-1 in the conference," quipped Hicks. "If we win the rest of our conference games, we will be playing a one game playoff against University High, but we have to win or it doesn't matter."